Archive for Tuesday, August 29, 2006

USA, USA’: Georgia team crowned

Walker’s two-run home run, Carter’s pitching pace Columbus to 2-1 victory over Japan in final

August 29, 2006


— Chants of "USA! USA!" spread through the crowd when the gritty young competitors from Columbus, Ga., recorded the last out in the Little League World Series.

How fitting.

Cody Walker hit a two-run homer, Kyle Carter struck out 11, and Columbus beat Kawaguchi City, Japan, 2-1, on Monday, giving an American team the championship for the second straight year.

Columbus' victory in the title game came one year after Ewa Beach, Hawaii, beat a squad from Willemstad, Curacao for the championship.

A U.S. team hadn't won back-to-back Little League titles with different teams since 1982-83 when Kirkland, Wash., and Marietta, Ga., celebrated in South Williamsport. That Marietta team was the only other club from Georgia to make it to the tournament.

"That is pretty awesome," Columbus coach Randy Morris said. "We've been here twice and won it twice, so maybe we should try this more.

Long Beach, Calif., was a repeat champion in 1992-93, though the first victory was awarded after a Philippines squad was stripped of the title for using over-age players.

Just 13, Japan's Go Matsumoto dominated hitters like a major leaguer with an overpowering fastball.

It was potent again for him on Monday, except for Walker's shot in the third inning that followed a baserunning blunder.

Carter overcame a bout of wildness in the sixth and final inning after walking one batter and hitting another to become the only pitcher in World Series history to win four games. Morris visited the mound, but stuck with his ace.

"I didn't think he was losing it or anything," Morris said. "I just went out to him to tell to take a deep breath, and don't let up."

With two runners on, he enticed Ryoya Sato into a weak bouncer to Josh Lester at second for the last out of the game.

That prompted the Georgia-leaning crowd to erupt in cheers, chant "USA! USA!" and wave American flags. Columbus players rushed toward Lester, skipping up and down in celebration and tossing their gloves to the sky.

Kawaguchi City manager Shigeru Hidaka called Carter's performance "fantastic. His curveball was right on. He pitched a great game."

Columbus' rally was nearly thwarted by Carter's mistake on the bases.

Carter took off from first on Lester's single to center but didn't heed the stop sign thrown by Morris at third.

He was nailed at home for the second out, sliding into the catcher's shin guards well short of the plate.

It didn't matter, because Walker then hit his opposite-field shot over the right field fence. Lester pumped his fist as he rounded third, and Morris was so excited as Walker circled the bases that his hat fell off. Jubilant teammates greeted Walker at the plate.

"All year, we have found a deep strength. When he hit the home run, I think we thought we would still win," Hidaka said.

It wasn't to be. A sign in the Columbus cheering section read, "Georgia, Not Just Peaches."

Now, it's also home to the best team in Little League baseball.


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